Fantasy Flight Games premiered their latest card game, Marvel Champions, at Gen Con 2019 in Indianapolis. It is a cooperative card game where players take on the role of heroes from Spider-Man to Black Panther and more to face challenging villains of the Marvel Universe like Rhino or Klaw.
What is Gen Con, you ask? It only happens to be the biggest annual convention in gaming. In many ways it is the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) of gaming.
With over 60,000 attendees every year, Gen Con rivals SDCC in how it impacts the downtown area of its host city, in this case Indianapolis, Indiana. It is held at the Indiana Convention Center but has grown so large that it routinely spills over onto the field of Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts team. Restaurants and bars in the area annually take on gamer themes and present specialized menus and drinks to entertain the massive gamer crowd. Its 5,000 events include role-playing games like D&D and Pathfinder, miniature and historical wargaming, collectible card game tournaments such as Magic the Gathering and the Pokémon Trading Card Game, and board games galore. The exhibit hall features over 500 vendors to provide for every gaming need from games to books to dice to cards and more.
Major industry players such as Fantasy Flight Games and Paizo Inc., who publish the very popular and successful Pathfinder and Starfinder role-playing games, have an annual presence at the convention. In fact, Gen Con 2019 was particularly important to Paizo as they released the official Pathfinder Second Edition role-playing game there this year. This game is derived from the Open Gaming license provided by the Wizards of the Coast, owners of Dungeons & Dragons (which now has its own very successful 5th edition of D&D) and is a successful and well-regarded revision of the 3.0 and 3.5 editions of Dungeons & Dragons.
Gen Con also provides fans a chance, like at SDCC, to meet the creators and artists that have produced the games they love, and maybe get an autograph. For industry insiders, it’s THE convention to meet up and secure new projects to work on for the next year, since like the comics industry, a huge portion of the gaming hobby labor force is freelance writers, designers and artists.
But what about the name, Gen Con? What does it mean? Well, in 1968 a small group of gaming enthusiasts who enjoyed miniature wargaming, historical wargaming, tactical board games, etc. established an annual convention to get together and play. This group happened to include Dungeons & Dragons co-creators E. Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and more and was held in the small city of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Thus it was named Geneva Con or Gen Con for short.
Through the years, as Gygax and company first brought D&D into existence and by the 1980’s into wide distribution, the convention grew and changed. First it was relocated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin due to increasing attendance. As the con outgrew that city, it was finally brought to Indianapolis to accommodate this continually expanding hobby. Peter Adkison, former CEO of Wizards of the Coast, bought the convention in 2002 and has been overseeing it through its successful growth every year since.
Note, there still is a small but flourishing convention in Lake Geneva these days called GaryCon, named after the founder himself, E. Gary Gygax. Although many of the original attendees of the earliest Gen Cons are no longer with us, at GaryCon you can find a few who were there, even as kids, since the very beginning. By all accounts it’s a great convention for “old school” gamers to gather and play and for new gamers to learn where all the successful games of today came from.
But Gen Con in Indianapolis remains the biggest national and international draw for gamers in this country and should remain that way for years to come. After all, where else could you find the Kenny G: Keepin’ it Saxy board game? Only at Gen Con.